Make older Macs feel new again by switching web browsers [Pro tip]

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Switch browsers to speed up an old Mac
Some browsers are better than others on older machines.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Pro-tip-4Got an old Mac that’s crawling to a halt every time you browse the web? It might not be your hardware that’s in need of a change. Before splashing out on new components, try switching browsers instead.

When you have an older computer that’s starting to feel a little sluggish, you might typically consider adding more RAM or swapping its hard disk for a solid-state drive to give it a speed boost.

That’s not so easy with many Macs, which aren’t easily upgradeable — and it might not be necessary, either. In some cases, speeding up your machine is as simple as switching to a different web browser.

Especially if you usually use Google Chrome.

Ditch Google Chrome to speed up your Mac

Chrome is by far the most popular web browser on the planet. It didn’t get that far by being an awful browser. But Chrome is notorious for being a massive resource hog that can slow down your machine.

Chrome eats up a lot of RAM — especially if you regularly have more than one browser tab open — and can send CPU usage through the roof. It will also drain your battery if you’re running it on a MacBook.

This doesn’t just result in slower web browsing and more frequent charges. If you have Chrome running in the background, you’ll notice other Mac apps run slower, too, as Chrome steals precious power.

Google has finally acknowledged all this, and recently began testing changes that hope to improve Chrome’s efficiency. Until those tweaks arrive, you should consider using another browser instead.

Which browser is best?

So, which browser should you switch to? Safari is the obvious choice. It comes installed on your Mac, and it’s optimized specifically for Apple computers, so it tends to be faster and more efficient than others.

Safari makes switching simple, too. You can import all your bookmarks, passwords, and more from Chrome into Safari so that you don’t have to set everything up from scratch. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open Safari on your Mac.
  2. Click File, then Import From.
  3. Select Google Chrome…
  4. Select the items you want to import. You can choose bookmarks, history, and passwords.
  5. Click Import.

You will be prompted to enter your Mac’s password for authorization. We recommend clicking the Always Allow button, rather than just Allow, so that you don’t have to enter your password several times.

For even easier switching and a more Chrome-like experience, you might want to consider the Microsoft Edge browser for Mac.

Why Edge is an excellent option

Edge is built using the same Chromium foundations as Chrome itself, but with a greater focus on speed, efficiency, and privacy. It looks and feels similar, but it runs a lot faster and has some unique features.

Edge ships with built-in anti-tracking tools, supports 4K streaming in Netflix, and offers support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. It’s also just as easy to import all your Chrome data:

  1. Open Edge on your Mac.
  2. Click the Settings button.
  3. Click Favorites, then Import.
  4. Choose Google Chrome.
  5. Select the data you want to import, then click Import.

Most importantly, because Edge is built on Chromium, it supports all the Chrome extensions you’re already used to — unlike Safari. You can even download them from the same Chrome Web Store.

By default, Edge will allow only Microsoft-approved extensions. To install from the Chrome Web Store as well, follow these steps:

  1. In Edge, click the Settings button.
  2. Click Extensions.
  3. In the bottom-left corner of the window, click the toggle to Allow extensions from other stores.
  4. Click Allow to confirm.
  5. Now visit the Chrome Web Store and download what you need.

Ditch Chrome after switching

There are other browsers options, of course. You might also want to consider Firefox, Opera, Brave, or Vivaldi — all of which will allow you to import your data from Chrome, and should run a little better.

Opera, in particular, is another solid choice. It has built-in malware protection and a great feature that compresses web pages for faster loading times. It’s worth a try, especially on older machines.

No matter which one you choose, don’t forget to remove Google Chrome from your Mac after switching. Even when you’re not using it, it has processes that run in the background, slowing down your Mac.